House Republicans Plan Shorter U.S. Border Funds Bill

House Republicans drafting a bill to fund U.S. border operations are scaling the measure back to last only through September instead of through the end of 2014, according to an aide familiar with the discussions.

The change comes as Republicans are trying to secure 217 votes from among their 234 House members to ensure they can pass the bill, even if no Democrats join them. The change will reduce the cost of the bill, though it’s unclear by how much.

Though the estimated cost of the measure -- less than $1 billion -- is far below President Barack Obama’s $3.7 billion request, House leaders have faced resistance from some Republicans who’ve frequently split with leadership over the cost of spending and tax bills.

Though that group may be a minority of the Republican conference, they only need 18 confirmed “no” votes to scuttle a bill or require leaders to negotiate with Democrats who have balked over policy changes Republicans insist on.

Some 57,000 unaccompanied minors were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border from Oct. 1 through June 15, double the total in a similar period a year earlier, according to Customs and Border Protection. Most of the children came from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

U.S. lawmakers have until July 31 to agree on legislation related to the border before they leave Washington for a five-week break. They are set to return Sept. 8.

Speaker Boehner

House Speaker John Boehner has pressed Republicans to pass a border supplemental bill before August, when the Homeland Security and Health and Human Services Departments may run out of money to address the border crisis. It’s unclear how much flexibility the Obama administration will have to shift funds from other accounts, and how much time that would buy.

Traffickers paid to take migrants across the U.S. border, known as coyotes, are exploiting “the ambiguity that has become a hallmark of the policies and the debates that are being carried on on the question of immigration reform here in the United States,” Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez told reporters in Washington last week.

“There’s a growing consensus to act,” said Texas Republican Kevin Brady, leaving an hour-long conference meeting at the Capitol on July 25. It’s “hard to know” how many definite “no” votes exist but that number is “getting smaller,” he said.

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